We've just returned to Greece. . .or at least it feels that way.
You see we took a road trip to a luxury resort not far from our house. A sprawling oasis of pure bling with two five-star hotels, an enormous spa and so many top-notch restaurants that you could lose count of them all. It is the type of place you'd find in Hawaii and Arizona; similar to posh places in France and Italy . . . for that matter, on our glitzy islands, Santorini or Mykonos. But, Messinia?!We'd driven northwest from our home in The Mani, past Kalamata and then across Pylia, the most western Peloponnese 'finger'. Like most road trips in this area we'd slowed for farmers on tractors and had passed a dozen or so mom-and-pop fruit stands that line the narrow two-lane road that serves as a 'highway' here. Our route took us through villages so small that a mere blink and you'd miss them; each with some distinctly Greek name,like, Neromylos, water mills.
|Sailboats docked at Pylos harbor - Peloponnese|
|A common sight on the roads of Pylia this time of year|
Eventually signs directed us to an even more narrow road that wound through an ancient olive grove, and then another turn and we were on way to the resort's security gate at the end of a landscaped drive. A gate we wouldn't have gotten past without reservations, I might add.
|Fruit stands line the highway - it is orange season|
Two hours after leaving home, we'd arrived at Costa Navarino, the 321-acre resort featuring side-by-side hotels --The Westin and Romanos Luxury Collection -- two golf courses, an enormous spa, conference facilities to serve 1,700 and so many swimming pools and high end restaurants that we lost count of them all.
|From Agios Nikolaos on the right to Romanos on the left|
The lobby of the small Kalamata Airport, some 40 minutes away from the resort, is a showroom for the resort. Enormous photos, maps and information - you can't miss the hype for the ultra luxury experience to be had at this place. Each time we saw the display, we'd say we should check it out. Finally, we did!
The resort opened in May 2010, a few years before we happened upon the Messinian region of the Peloponnese. At the time of its opening, it featured The Dunes 18-hole golf course. A second course, The Bay, opened the following year. (Two more courses are being developed in the area of Navarino Hills.)
|A view of The Dunes golf course - Costa Navarino|
Since we can't yet travel outside Greece (still waiting for those residence permits), this seemed a perfect destination for last week's road trip. While the valet parked our car, we were greeted by a charming receptionist from Venice and we were settled in our room shortly after 1 p.m.
|Center of The Westin Lobby - Costa Navarino|
'Agora's' restaurants and big screen - Costa Navarino
At times when strolling its grounds, with no sign of the Mediterranean Sea, (it is set back from the beach for environmental reasons) we'd comment that it felt like we were in Scottsdale, Arizona. And there's nothing wrong with that!
Our 'family suite' had two full bathrooms and large deck
For those of us who live in Greece and who would like a change of scenery and tastes, it was perfect option. We were upgraded -- thanks to the Marriott/Starwood Bonvoy hotel loyalty program -- to what is called a 'family suite' - a room large enough that we could have lived in the place. It was difficult to pull ourselves away from our room.
One Man's Dream
|A bit of Navarino Bay|
He'd likely be quite proud of the award-winning resort these days as among its accolades are: National Georgraphic Travel Editors named it one of the 20 Best Destinations in the World, it was named the European Golf Resort of the Year in 2017 by the Golf Tourism Association and The Westin has been voted the "Best Family Destination' in The Mediterranean.
A Sustainable DestinationThe resort's web site proudly claims to be 'the prime sustainable destination in the Mediterranean.' After seeing first-hand the environmental and socio-economic efforts going on here, they certainly have a right to such a boast.
|Beach café has limited operation in deference to the turtles|
Let's start at the beach: The restaurant, with the most beautiful undulating canvas roof I've ever seen, operates only in the daytime. At sundown the beach belongs to the turtles as explained in the sign in the photo.
|A Blue Flag beach - Costa Navarino|
|How old is this tree?!?!? we exclaimed.|
The development also has the Navarino Pet Community animal adoption center, a place that is open to guests to visit and adopt previously unwanted animals who are cared for by a team of volunteers. Forty animals have found new 'fur-ever' homes thanks to those volunteers.
A decade ago the founders of Costa Navarino formed a partnership with the academic community and created the Navarino Environmental Observatory that operates with a focus on research and educational programs on climate change and the environment.
Keeping locals employed and able to live in Messinia was part of the founder's original vision. Producing Navarino Icons, the private resort label of products including wine, olives and olive oil is one way of doing that. (You can find these at Dean and Deluca and Whole Foods in the US and Marks and Spencer in the UK).